Welcome To My Nightmare

Welcome To 2008! I’ve got an idea for a bit of creative writing/role-playing that I’ll present to you folks in a couple of weeks, but I thought I’d take this week to start the new year (or help close the old year if you’re reading this in China) on a positive note. I expressed not all that long ago that I was having trouble finding much to get excited about. Well, I’ve recently found a few books I’m really looking forward to this year. I’m not talking about the books planned for summer, for example, as I honestly don’t look that far in advance. But some recent first or second issues (or 6th issues…or 37th…you know how it is) have left me smiling and hope they do the same for you.

THE END LEAGUE — I enjoy Rick Remender’s FEAR AGENT a great deal, so when I saw this first issue of this new Remender superhero title from Dark Horse on the rack, I thought I’d give it a try. There’s a lot going on in this issue, maybe even a smidgen too much, but I’m intrigued enough to stick with it. The formidable art team of Mat Broome and Sean Parsons look like they’re having fun with the material, and I think that’s an intangible that cannot be underestimated in books today. Do you think J. M. Straczynski enjoyed writing Spider-Man’s “One More Day” arc? Nope! I you’ve been flipping 4-color pages for as long as I have, you can kinda get a sense of when people are really excited about what they’re doing and when they’re just working for a paycheck. These guys on THE END LEAGUE are having fun, no question!

THOR — Speaking of Straczynski, he seems to be having fun on THOR, and so am I. I admit, I was a little skeptical about the notion of dropping Asgard over Kansas since it didn’t work all that well a few years ago when they (was it Dan Jurgens then?) had Asgard floating over Manhattan. But color me surprised, it really works this time! There’s enough small town folksiness to remind you that you’re not in some far off land connected to Earth only by the Rainbow Bridge, but not so much that you forget you’re reading about gods. And Oliver Coipel is always great. There’s a twist in the last issue involving Loki that I didn’t see coming at all. Unlike Spider-man, JMS’s THOR is a ton of Uru-enchanted fun!

NORTHLANDERS — Brian Wood’s stuff (DMZ, for example) is always a great read. Northlanders is no exception. Davide Gianfelice’s art style reminds me in some ways of 100 BULLETS, it’s dynamic and appropriately moody. I don’t usually mention it, but I’m particularly happy with the colors in this book. Dave McCaig does a great job! I’m a sucker for a good Viking or barbarian yarn (see Thor above), and this is certainly shaping up to be exactly that. You’d think I’d have seen Beowulf, wouldn’t you? Well you’d be wrong, just like you would be if you didn’t give this gem a try!

BOOSTER GOLD — DC has found their “EXILES” in Booster Gold and Skeets. Traversing the Multiverse (ugh…bad turn of phrase) the Time Master Rip Hunter, Booster is finally a truly capable solo character. He’s bouncing around through DC’s well-documented timeline in the hopes of rescuing Ted Kord from his ultimate demise, consequences be damned. Along the way he’s already met the likes of Jonah Hex and attempted — time after time, in futility — to save Barbara Gordon from the Joker. Time travel is always a tricky thing to work with, just ask Marty McFly. Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz have handled it with aplomb, and Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund are doing some of their best work in years.

DYNAMO5 — I’ve been a fan of Jay Faerber for awhile now. I first started reading his Image offerings with the Firebirds one-shot. I then picked up all the trades of Noble Causes I could find. Jay writes exactly the sort of stuff I like — super-powered folks dealing with real-life chaos. Sure, there are super-powered folks fighting almost every issue, but there are also parenting dilemmas, relationship issues, and other things we readers deal with every day. You know, the things that used to make Spider-Man worth reading. Everybody loves a character with everyman qualities, and Jay writes most of his characters that way. I even like some of the characters I’m probably not even supposed to. I hope to see a lot more of artist Mahmud Asrar in the future too. He puts a lot of energy in every panel. The book is about 10 issues old now, and worth tracking down. The first arc is in trade format too! I don’t want to say much about it to give anything away, but trust me, if I like it you will too (or else). Guys like Jay and Troy Hickman (where the heck are you hiding, Troy?) who work so well with characterizations and tell stories beyond the same ol’ fisticuffs are the ones that really keep me excited about this hobby, especially in the weeks that I don’t have any Gail Simone or Ed Brubaker stuff to read.

WILDSTORM — This isn’t so much a single book as it is the whole line, which is poised for another relaunch. Jim Lee can’t seem to get it right. And somehow, for no reason I can explain, I don’t care. I’ve loved the WildStorm Universe from day one, with the exception of Gen13. I’m hoping he finds whatever it is he’s looking for time around. I’m also hoping he keeps Christos Gage around for as long as he can. Gage has burst onto the scene in the last couple of years with consistently fun tales, no matter where he’s working. The current WildStorm angle is called Revelations, and it Gage is joined by writer Scott Beatty artist Wes Craig and colorist Jonny Rench, another colorist who caught my eye with this book. I confess, I don’t know much about Wes Craig, but his style is gorgeous. It doesn’t hurt that the first issue sets the table with a lovely trio of heroines in Jodi “Backlash” Slayton, Savant and Nemesis. Who knows what Jim Lee wants to do next with his universe? But hey, it IS his, he can do whatever he wants, and if he keeps people like Gage, Beatty, Craig and Rench around, whatever Jim does, it’ll be a blast!

MADAME MIRAGE — As if there wasn’t enough cheesecake on the shelves today, Kenneth Rocafort is on hand to illustrate MADAME MIRAGE, the totally titular title character. Hmm? What’s a pun? Never mind. Rocafort’s style is like a cross between Leinil Francis Yu on a good day and Salvatore LaRocca’s early run on Extreme X-Men. It’s well crafted, and he’s one of the few artists who make me notices his panel layouts and the shapes of the panels themselves. Tony Harris is like that too. So Kenneth’s in good company, right? BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! There have been plenty of books with fantastic art but sub-par writing that doesn’t go anywhere. Does this book suffer from that same malady? HELL NO! Paul Dini is at the controls! Paul Dini could do a book with the crappiest art you can imagine (Jon Bogdanove’s X-Factor comes to mind) and it would still be a must read!

So there you have it, possibly my most inclusive and positive column ever. Marvel, DC, Vertigo, Image, WildStorm, Dark Horse, and Top Cow all represented, and even a few colorists getting props — I must be getting soft. Then again, I was able to slip in a couple of cracks about Joe Quesada’s quixotic butchery of Spider-Man, so there’s that. I bet he’s a Skrull too. Joe, not Spidey. And hey, there are some other books right up there too: The Order, Iron Fist, Fables/Jack, Cap, Hulk…er…Herc, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters (which has come a long way from the Battle of Bludhaven debacle), Suicide Squad, Star Wars: Legacy, Dan Dare…the list goes on and on. And then there’s Spider-man.

Welcome to my nightmare.

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